The near-record-breaking forecast for Wednesday in Chicago could do a doozy on your car, causing it to stall.
Morning Shift talks to Joe Betancourt Jr., with Joe’s Expert Auto in Lincoln Park, on how to winterize your car and make sure both you and your car stay safe in sub-zero weather.
The biggest challenges drivers tend to face when the temperature drops this low
Joe Betancourt Jr.: The biggest problem is getting the car started, and it usually comes down to things like the battery. Another thing is if you get stranded, it’s also important as well to be ready for any kind of situation.
Jenn White: Talk about the whole idea around warming the car up … Does that really matter?
Betancourt Jr.: It is good to let it run for a little bit before you drive off. But I would say in normal temperatures, anything from 35 degrees and up, it’s not really necessary. It’s more so for comfort.
White: Now, I’ve also heard this whole thing about having at least a half-tank of gas when it’s cold, because otherwise the gas line can freeze. True or false?
Betancourt Jr.: The lower the fuel in the tank gets, the more likely it can freeze — especially if it’s really low. Some people will leave it below a quarter of a tank and find that there’s an issue when they try to start it in the morning in sub-zero temperatures. But also, say if you were to get stuck on the side of the road, … it is good to have fuel in the car because you may have to run it for a while, in case you’re waiting for a tow or for someone to come help you.
White: How can you tell how much life is left in the battery?
Betancourt Jr.: It’s usually as simple as just going to one of your local auto parts stores or a nearby auto shop and having them tested, and that’ll tell you right away whether it’ll pass or fail.
On how electric cars handle the weather
Betancourt Jr.: I haven’t seen many issues with the electric cars. They seem to handle it a little better. You will have to make sure they’re fully charged. As I said, the voltage can be eliminated by the temperature. … But I’ve actually seen them in a lot of ways perform a lot better than most combustion engines.
Other useful tips for winterizing your car
Betancourt Jr.: Make sure you got enough fuel in the tank, make sure the tires are aired properly, make sure the battery is good because tomorrow it is going to be tested to its very limits. … Vehicles left for really long periods of time, those are the ones that seem to have the most trouble starting — even with a brand new battery.
White: You talk about leaving the car out for a long period of time. Are we talking six hours, eight hours, ten hours?
Betancourt Jr.: In most normal temperatures, in 30 to 35 degrees, it usually takes six, seven hours for it to get really stone cold. In these kinds of temperatures, it happens pretty quickly.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to hear the entire conversation.
GUEST: Joe Betancourt Jr., Joe’s Expert Auto